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Inside the home of a Kurdish family in Ararat

One of the cradles of civilisation, Armenia offers visitors a refreshing experience - if they are prepared to occasionally pass on all the comforts of home. Facilities for travellers are few and far between, but then so are queues, and Yerevan's sidewalk cafes afford great people-watching.

Get out of the cities and the countryside is astonishing; cloaked in wildflowers, framed by snowy mountains, pitted with deep caves and endowed with more than 40,000 ancient churches and monuments. Its depths hold a bounty of natural resources, including gold, copper and precious stones.

Armenia has been trampled over by most of the ancient world's big players, and was nearly wiped out altogether in the early years of the 20th century. The Soviet Union dropped in unasked and stayed for 70 years, bequeathing monumentally ugly buildings and a taste for grand military parades. Tensions with neighbouring Azerbaijan flared in the early 1990s, and a continuing economic blockade has strained the economy, making fuel and some other commodities scarce. None of that has prevented Armenians from doing what they do best: celebrating their culture and enjoying their laid back lifestyle.

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